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SC rejects NGO's plea for further probe in Haren Pandya case, slaps Rs 50K fine

Law Crime

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a PIL of an NGO seeking further probe into the murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya in 2003, terming it as "not bona fide" and "bereft of merit" and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on it.

The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), had relied upon statements of a witness in Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and texts of a book written by journalist Rana Ayyub for seeking re-investigation in the case.

"The way in which the things have moved in Gujarat post-Godhra incident, such allegations and counter-allegations are not uncommon and had been raised a number of times and have been found to be untenable and afterthought," the top court observed.

It termed as "shocking and surprising" the method of accused having resorted to supply the documents and file a PIL in their self-interest to virtually attack the prosecution case on the same grounds after the appeals were reserved for verdict.

The bench said that in all fairness, such writ petition ought not to have been filed by CPIL at the instance of accused as it is clearly misuse of "Forum of PIL".

The order dismissing the NGO's plea came along with the verdict on a batch of appeals filed by CBI, Gujarat Police, accused and their family members in the Pandya murder case.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Sharan said, "No ground for further re-investigation or investigation is made out in the matter. The writ petition is dismissed with cost of Rs 50,000 to be deposited by petitioner with Supreme Court Bar Association Advocates Welfare Fund within a month".

The top court also rejected the contention of the NGO to rely upon the statements given by one Md Azam Khan, a prosecution witness in Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, and texts of book written by journalist Rana Ayyub and termed as "an afterthought" and of "no utility" respectively.

"In our opinion on merits in view of the material that has been placed on record including that of Azam Khan's statement and book by Rana Ayyub, no case is made out on the basis of material placed on record so as to direct further investigation or re-investigation. There is absolutely no

material for that purpose," it said.

Referring to the Ayyub's book "Gujarat Files Anatomy of a coverup", the bench said, "The Book by Rana Ayyub is of no utility. It is based upon surmises, conjectures, and suppositions and has no evidentiary value".

"The opinion of a person is not in the realm of the evidence. There is a likelihood of the same being politically motivated, cannot be ruled out. The way in which the things have moved in Gujarat post-Godhra incident, such allegations and counter-allegations are not uncommon and had been raised a number of times and have been found to be untenable and afterthought," it said.

The top court wondered as to how the very same documents were filed in the PIL that were part of the criminal appeals of the accused.

"We are not happy the way in which the writ petition has been filed. It has been filed acting obviously in conjunction with the accused persons in the case as the counsel for accused has admittedly supplied the documents to the petitioner and had consultations," it said.

The top court said it cannot be said to be an appropriate way of filing a writ petition for further investigation, "the motive is oblique, improper and against discipline, especially when the criminal appeals were being heard finally and this Court was in seisin of the matter and judgment has been reserved".

Referring to the statement of Mohd. Azam Khan, the bench said: "In our opinion, the statement made by Azam Khan was totally out of the context of a criminal case in which he had deposed. It was clearly an attempt as an afterthought to make the statement as to some other matter irrelevant to this controversy".

The bench termed it as as a "clearly a motivated one and bundle of falsehood as he could not give any reason for omission in the previous statement in which also this issue was not involved".

The bench also referred to the allegations levelled by Haren Pandya's father Vithal Pandya and wife Jagruti Ben and said that the matter has been dealt with on merits by Gujarat High Court which had said, "Only on allegation of political rivalry, further investigation or re-investigation cannot be ordered".

The bench also questioned the way advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared in the plea filed by CPIL as he was also the member of the executive committee of the NGO.

"Rules of professional ethics are meant to be observed by all concerned. In case their observance is done in a breach that too before this Court and that too knowing its implication on the canvassed untenable ground, no one can prevent breach of rules of ethics", it said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Fri, July 05 2019. 20:55 IST